First ski stop – Sunshine Village, AB and travel as a privilege

I decided to check out Sunshine Village in Banff, Alberta the day after my arrival as it is a relatively short drive from Canmore.  I am in awe of the convenience and proximity to so much awesome climbing and skiing (backcountry and resort) there is around here. I had no time (and energy) to do any research on backcountry options, and the avy danger also seemed to be increasing with the cold front moving in with snow and winds, after some ridiculously cold weather (-30 degC last week) followed by warmer weather prior to my arrival. So inbounds it was.

Sunshine Village location

Sunshine Village location

This whole late sunrise thing is definitely still something I am getting used to. I arrived at Sunshine Village around 7.45am, and was one of the first few cars there. It meant that I scored an excellent parking spot which made the walking with my gear easier. I did not see any handicap parking; I think I am going to be skiing in areas where there really isn’t much accommodation for people with disabilities, so I just might have to try and get to places early.

I was on first lifts at 9am and it was still a very dark grey. Visibility was worsened by the very windy and gusty conditions, kicking up snow. A cold front was moving in, bringing in snow (yay) but definitely made for a white-out conditions day. If nothing else, the conditions at Jay Peak, VT can be so shitty that they prepare you well for such conditions. Staying near the trees was definitely the MO for the day, versus featureless bowls.

I have not been around the big international/holiday crowd in awhile…e.g. women wearing tight fitting ski pants and the like, casual skiers who you can tell ski/board a bit, but are really about the apres-ski. I lost them quickly but it still felt a little strange, probably because of my lack of exposure to them. There are also no adaptive skiers around here, so I was getting asked questions all the time about my set up. People asked me in a very polite way, so I didn’t mind giving them a very brief answer, unless they prodded for more information. Skiing alone on one ski is definitely challenging because of the clipping and unclipping of my left leg; it can be quite a balancing act, especially in deep snow if I fall, and I hate having to take my left glove off in cold conditions.

All the Aussie workers here, combined with the Canadians, have made me revert back to this weird Canadian-Aussie-British accent. Fortunately, I have the Aero and Mars bar consumption to back it up. Again, I feel this weird sense of familiarity with these surroundings.

As I was skiing and managing all the logistics that accompany skiing solo with my setup (e.g. negotiating various stairs, dealing with a tricky bubble chair with outriggers, , I was keenly aware that someone with more physical limitations than myself, would have an even more difficult time. Indeed, these “obstacles” could be deal-breakers for other people. As I said in an earlier post, I think there was no other non-fully-able-bodied skier (I don’t know what other term to use) than myself here, and I am not sure how I feel about that. Neat because I’m forging ahead and “breaking new ground”? Sad that some people are excluded from this experience, not just due to physical barriers, but income, socioeconomic status etc. which blows up a whole ‘nother can of worms (is that even a saying?) Acceptance that this is just the way the world is; and even wheels turning to figure out how to change this. As you can tell, there is a great deal of awareness and ambivalence about my athletic passions and pursuits.

I came across this article, which articulates some of these concerns/thoughts, and serves as a reminder that traveling is indeed a privilege. I like this line: “There’s an implication here that people who don’t travel lack a sense of adventure, that they simply need to be braver and venture out into the world. But it’s patronizing – ignorant, even – to imply that this is the only thing keeping people from traveling. It isn’t. ”


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